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of the wise and perfect design for which we were created. If they taught the unrestrained indulgence of the gross propensities of human nature; if they justified oppression and violence; if they encouraged fraud and injustice; if they allowed of persecution and intolerance; if they gave countenance to falsehood and deceit; if they sanctioned indifference to the practice of any moral and social virtue, or afforded a license to the indulgence of sin, in thought, word or deed; we might feel ourselves excusable in rejecting their instructions: But their morality is, on the contrary, so pure, simple, exalted and refined, as to leave us without excuse, provided we reject their wholesome admonitions, and heed not their holy and authoritative precepts. In a word; they are a light to our feet and a lamp to our path," to direct us into all the counsels of wisdom and truth; and while they point out to us the dangers of our way, and solemnly admonish us to "shun every appearance of evil," they communicate to us the knowledge of God and his will, thoroughly furnish us unto every good word and work, and supply all the means which will enable us to become "wise unto salvation."
ST. JOHN, X. 20, 21.
"And many of them said, He hath a devil and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind ?”
Among the Jews, various impressions were produced by the preaching and miracles of Jesus. Some supposed him to be one of the ancient prophets, returned to the abode of mortals, for the purpose of instructing mankind in the perfect knowledge of divine truth, and to demonstrate its authority by the most wonderful deeds: Others, that he was John the Baptist, risen from the dead, to display the mighty power of God: A third class were jealous that he was an ambitious and designing politician, seeking to overthrow the laws and customs of the Jews, and to establish a new order of government: Another class supposed him to be the Son of God, the Messiah, whose character and labors had been the theme of so many of the ancient prophets while the more envious and bigotted declared that he had a devil and was mad. Thus we see that those who rejected the Prince of Peace, and the glorious truths which he taught and enforced, were actuated by different motives, which gave birth to variety in the character of their objections.
Between the skeptics of the first century, and those of our own times, there is, in some respects, a striking dissimilarity. Those who then rejected the doctrine and divine authority of the Saviour, admitted the reality of those astonishing miracles which he performed: But skeptics at this day allege the history of these miracles as an excuse for rejecting the system of revealed religion. This new attitude, therefore, of the opposers of divine revelation, renders it necessary for us to enter into the merits of the
evidence by which the miracles of Christ and his apostles are set forth and defended.
A miracle, in its common and most appropriate signification, denotes some effect which is produced by means that are contrary to the well-known and established constitution and course of things; such as a sensible and obvious deviation from the known laws of nature. Or, in other words, it is an effect produced, aside from, and independent of, the ordinary laws which are established in the physical universe.
The history which contains an account of the miracles of Christ and his followers, has been assailed with more violence and zeal, than reason and sober reflection.
Censure, of the most exceptionable character, devoid, alike, of sound reason and philosophy, is generally employed to intimidate the young and inexperienced mind: Modern skeptics appear to think that an unblushing charge of falsehood and deception is sufficient to ensure their triumph; especially if it be accompanied with a few sallies of satirical wit. But the sober exercise of reason will readily dissipate this illusion, and bring our minds to the more consistent employment of investigating the evidence of simple and well-attested facts.
What evidence, or even argument, have they ever brought forward to prove that Christ and his apostles did not perform the miracles which are recorded in the New Testament? None-They rest their whole cause on a simple denial of the fact. They indeed attempt to justify this denial, by appealing to the frauds which have been practised by vile and arrogant pretenders: But this appeal is a tacit acknowledgment, on their part, that genuine miracles have been performed; since no man would ever attempt an imitation of what never existed in reality. No fraud which was ever attempted will compare with the plain, but stupendous miracles of Christ and his apostles. They were not performed under the cover of darkness; no previous notice was given that they would be wrought; no long train of preparations was announced, to excite the gaze of the multitude :-They were totally unlike the tricks of jugglers, for they were never performed except in cases where real benevolence required the display of
almighty power. The first miracle of Christ was performed to give a divine sanction of approbation to the institution of marriage: an institution which is of universal importance to the peace, the prosperity, and the good order of society: an institution which has been held sacred by all civilized nations, and deemed indispensable even by the wildest barbarians; and were it now to be set aside and disregarded, it would immediately plunge mankind into a state of more deplorable barbarity than that which ever reigned among the tribes of our western wilds, or brutalized the hordes of Afric's burning sands. The miracles of Christ were generally performed in large assemblies, in the presence of his disciples, and in presence of those who sought occasion to revile and persecute him: In presence of thousands, he healed the lepers with a word; removed the palsy; gave sight to those that were born blind; restored hearing to the deaf; bade the burning fever retire; restored the withered hand, and raised the dead to life! How totally unlike the tricks of jugglers and mountebanks, were the miracles of the great Redeemer. They were performed at times and places, and under circumstances, which precluded the possibility of any deception. They were witnessed by the priests and rulers of the Jews, as well as by the whole multitude who came together to obtain instruction, or gratify their curiosity. They were repeated and multiplied by the apostles, in the name, and by the authority of their Master, after his resurrection from the dead :-They were performed upon such subjects as to remove all suspicion of fraud, and to defy all the arts of denial or evasion. Indeed, so obvious and undeniable were these miracles, that the Jews, with all their prejudice, envy and bitterness, did not pretend to deny, but acknowledged their truth. It is true that they attributed them to the power and influence of the prince of devils, but never presumed to call in question the fact of their being performed.Celsus, who lived but a few years after the apostles, notwithstanding his laborious efforts to bring the christian religion into discredit and contempt, did not venture to deny, but acknowledged that the miracles recorded by the apostles were really performed; and therefore found him
self under the necessity of admitting the divine authority of that religion, or of seeking some other way to account for their performance. This he found means to accomplish, by attributing them to the power of magic! The learned skeptics, Porphery and Julian, who succeeded him in the ranks of infidelity, patterned after his example, and attributed them to the same cause. Thus you see, my hearers, that the devil and magic, were as indispensable to keep the cause of infidelity in countenance, in the early ages of the gospel, as was the goddess Diana to the wealth of the craftsmen of Ephesus.
Some modern unbelievers, aware of these difficulties, have adopted a shorter method to dispose of the evidence of the miracles of the gospel, as well as the whole history of the christian religion, by denying that the histories were written till several hundred years after the events were said to transpire: Such persons, however, only expose their want of historical information, and bring disgrace and confusion into the ranks of the party which they are labouring to keep in countenance.
Occasionally there have been those who have denied the possibility of miracles: But these men probably are not aware that this assertion is a denial of the power of God, and therefore proves them to be Atheists. For admitting the existence of a Supreme Being, his power must be unlimited; therefore, to say that unlimited power cannot produce an effect aside from, and independent of the ordinary laws which this power has established in nature, is a contradiction in terms. This bold presumption betrays the most singular want of reflection: For where were the ordinary laws of reproduction, before the vegetable and animal creation were brought into being by the fiat of the Almighty? Will it be pretended that the first man and woman,-that the first pairs of all the animal creation,— that the first of all the plants and trees which adorn and beautify the globe, were produced by no other than the ordinary laws by which they are now multiplied? And if they were not produced by these laws, can any man unless he outrages every principle of reason, deny that they were produced by the immediate effort of divine and almighty power, independent of the ordinary laws of nature -No